Rationality

In addition to clarity, another important characteristic of the language of science is rationality.  Again, as language informs thought, using rational language helps create reasonable thought.  And because words and thoughts influence actions, a language that seeks rationality will translate into action that strives to be strategic, efficient, sustained, and with long-term vision.  What is rationality?  What is logic?  What is the process of reasoning?  A quick wikipedia or google search demonstrates the difficulty of this subject.  Instead of going through philosophy 101, a few basic principles can be explored with the aim of applying them into language, thought, and action.

Rational thought and statements result from a process of reasoning.  One type is deduction – reaching a conclusion that follows from premises.   “All iphones have a camera” + “Your cell phone is an iphone” = “Your cell phone has a camera.”  Theoretically, this type of reasoning is comforting – if the premises are true, clear, absolute, and relevant, then the conclusion is correct.  However, this type of logic is highly limited; rarely do we have these types of premises regarding social reality.  Instead, the premises could be false, ambiguous, or conditional. “Some iphones have a camera” would lead to “your cell phone might have a camera – not sure”, which is unclear.  “Your sandwich is an iphone” would lead to “your sandwich has a camera” which is just not true.  (And please comment below if it is).

Another process is that of induction – to create generalizations from observations.  “The iphones I’ve seen have cameras” and thus “All iphones have cameras”.  In order to have correct and clear inductions, the number of observations made must be large and in diverse conditions.  The more observations one makes that fit one’s generalization, the more confident one is of the truth of that statement.

The above examples are but two of many processes of logic.  They are very simple, and just go to show the basics of rationality in language and thought.  In everyday life, however, there is much more than rational thought that is needed.  Regarding the simple process of deduction, where do the premises come from?  What assumptions underlie them?  Consider, for instance, the following:

– Poor people steal more than rich people.
– Joe is poor, and John is rich.
– I should trust John over Joe with my car keys.

The logic is sound, but where did the first premise, in particular, come from?  What assumptions underlie it?  How is logical reasoning being deceptively used in our society to manipulate and distort views of reality?

Similarly, with inductive logic, what assumptions lead to the lens through which observations are made?  And what assumptions form the framework through which observations are interpreted?  If one wanted to use induction to determine whether collaboration or competition leads to more productivity, one would set about observing instances of competition, instances of collaboration, instances of productivity.  What factors determine the conditions of these instances?  What constitutes productivity?  What are the mindsets of those competing and collaborating?  Obviously, rationally is important – but it is not without a conceptual foundational built on assumptions about human and societal nature.

 

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